Reading Time: 7 minutes
One fateful night, an ancient spell was cast by an apprentice who couldn’t control it and all the beautiful castles in the kingdom of Caladale were destroyed and scattered across the land. Now is a time of rebuilding, taking the remains of the previous castles and reconstructing them for the glory of Caladale.
At a Glance
Castles of Caladale is a tile-laying game from Renegade Games. It’s for 1-4 players, ages 8 and up, and plays in about 30 minutes. The game hits shelves today for a suggested retail of $30 and is an outstanding, no-conflict game that kids will love and is great for the whole family.
In the box, you’ll find:
- 80 Castle tiles
- 54 standard tiles in three themes (18 each)
- 4 Gate tiles
- 18 Enchanted tiles
- 4 Wild tiles
- 1 Supply/Score track board
- 4 Character markers
- 4 Grass strips
- 1 30-second timer
The art on the tiles is great. It’s perfect for the fantasy theme, yet cartoony enough that families will really enjoy it. The tiles are broken into three themes, the remnants of a wizard’s stone castle, the bits and pieces of a faerie’s tree castle, and the leftovers of a gnome’s Tudor manor. Some of the tiles are interior tiles, that is to say, they are a castle’s material on all edges. Other tiles have become enchanted in the whirlwind of destruction; part of the faerie’s tree has melded with the wizard’s stone, and so on. Many tiles have edges, where the castle meets the sky, and a handful are tops, where ramparts and rooftops meet the heavens and fly the flags of their masters. There are rules about each of these tiles, which we’ll describe below, in the How to Play section.
The supply board, where the tiles are made available to players, is cleverly reused by flipping it over at the end of the game to track scoring. The character markers aren’t really important, they are only used for tracking scoring at the end and colored cubes would have sufficed. However, they are done in colorful silhouettes of a wizard, faerie, gnome, and apprentice — showing the game’s attention to detail. The grass strips are used as each player’s starting point, the bases of their new castles.
It all looks very good, and the distribution of tile types is just about perfect. The quality of the components is a bit lower than what you may be used to — the grass strips are made from thin cardboard and the tiles aren’t as thick as most tile-laying games, but the quality is still acceptable and the price of the game is very family-friendly, so it’s an OK trade-off, especially for a fun game with plenty of replay value.
How to Play
Everyone gets a Gate tile, which is a new castle’s front door and is placed somewhere on each player’s grass strip. Each player also takes a Wild tile (a single-sided tile that is useful for completing a castle, but carries a penalty, if used). Tiles are shuffled (some are removed if playing a two-player game) and placed face-down in a few stacks at the top of the supply board. Nine tiles are placed face-up on the supply board grid — the game is now ready to begin!
On each turn, players must draw a tile – either from the face-up options on the supply board or from the face-down stacks. (A tile taken from the supply board is immediately replaced with a tile from the stacks, which is placed face-up.) Players then have a choice: play the tile according to the placement rules or putting it in front of them, face-down. Face-down tiles award a one-point bonus at the end of the game, but a placed tile will earn you two points.
Placement rules are straightforward, yet a tiny bit complex and really the only reason that younger players might have a challenge playing this game. But before getting into them, there is one rule that makes Castles of Caladale an absolutely wonderful family game: players are encouraged to move their tiles, reconstructing their castles, throughout the entire game. Realize a tile goes better someplace else? Move it! Just drew a tile that changes your strategy? Rearrange everything! While other players are drawing and placing tiles, you can be continuously moving tiles around, completely starting from scratch, if needed. It. Is. Liberating.
Tiles should be placed according to the following rules:
- The gate must be placed upright and touching the grass strip.
- Tower tops with flags must also be placed upright.
- Adjacent tiles must match their themed materials (tree to tree, stone to stone, Tudor to Tudor, sky to sky).
- Castles must be a contiguous structure.
- Tiles touching the grass strip must have bottom edges made of a castle material (not sky).
- Tiles must be supported along their bottom edge, with three exceptions:
- Two-sided tiles (tiles that have sky on two edges) may hang off the left or right side of other tiles.
- One-sided tiles can hang off the sides of other tiles and can hang upside down.
- A single tile may form a bridge, but must be supported on its left and right side that are supported on their bottom edges.
- Any tile overhanging the grass strip must have sky on their bottom edges.
- The grass strip does not need to be fully covered.
Players take turns selecting and placing tiles until all tiles are used. At that point, players have a certain amount of time (at home, we allowed one minute) to rearrange their tiles to try to optimize scoring. This is the only time we used the timer.
Scoring considers a variety of factors:
- 2 points per tile used in your castle (except Wild tiles)
- 2 point bonus if your castle is complete (sky surrounding entire castle, except grass strip)
- 1 point bonus for each tower top tile with a flag
- 1 point for each unused, flipped tile
- -2 penalty for an exposed tile edge (not sky)
- -1 if Wild tile was used in castle
Calculate scores, congratulate the winner, reshuffle the tiles and play again!
Additionally, should you ever tire of playing with the standard rules there are a few other play modes. Speed mode distributes tiles before play begins and allows players to exchange tiles with the supply. Play begins at a frantic pace and continues until one-player decides their castle is complete enough and flips the timer. Other players now have 30 seconds to complete their castles. The first player gets a one point bonus. There are also two solo variants or players can just opt for free play, constructing the biggest and most outrageous castle in the kingdom.
Why You Should Play
We loved Castles of Caladale. Tile-laying games are generally a lot of fun because they are like puzzles that the player is left to figure out, but Castles of Caladale comes with lots of added value. In the rulebook, there’s a nice story that provides details and background about how the castles in the kingdom were destroyed – it really adds to the theme. The fact that players are not only able, but encouraged to rework their castles is very freeing. It allows you to rethink your placements and doesn’t force you to overthink when initially placing them. What’s more, because you are constantly evaluating and reworking your castle, games fly by quickly.
Yes, younger players (or adults) might make placements that fall outside the rules, but the game encourages players to help each other by making sure placements are legal. It’s all very friendly. What’s more, while completion of a castle is the goal, the bonus for completion is pretty small — the game recognizes most players won’t finish their castles. You are, however, rewarded for minimizing incomplete edges.
There’s not a lot of interaction between players, but because there is no time limit for rounds, families can play leisurely, observing what others have done and commenting on smart placements or clever-looking castles. Kids will love Castles of Caladale, not just because it’s great looking, nor because often the castles end up being pretty silly looking (and it is both of those things), but because you can never really make mistakes. You can change your mind all the way up until the final round. It’s all very relaxing. It’s also very entertaining. Gameplay moves pretty quickly and you’ll find that as soon as one game ends, you’re ready to begin another.
There are lots of tile-laying games you could choose to include in your collection: Galaxy Trucker, Isle of Sky, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Expedition: Northwest Passage, and, of course, Carcassonne. (Along with many, many others.) They are all great games and they’re all worth considering, but they are all a bit more complex than Castles of Caladale. If you’re looking for a great introduction to tile-laying — or just a fun way to unwind — you need to get this game.
Castles of Caladale is not only a great family game, it’s the most fun we’ve had laying tiles in a very long time. It looks great and has plenty of replay value. For those reasons, Castles of Caladale is GeekDad Approved. Go pick up a copy!
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a copy of this game for review purposes.